Raising funds for a statue to honour the footballer denied an England cap in 1925, just because he was black.
Jack Leslie Campaign: Black History month 2021
October is Black History Month, and the Jack Leslie Campaign were kept busy delivering presentations about Jack’s story- at schools, for businesses and fan groups. Jack’s story got a lot of coverage, and also featured in an exhibition -see below!
We present at corporate level, as a discussion platform for companies or organisations who are interested in engaging with black history. Last year that included e.g. presentations with the CPS, the General Dental Council and Kingsley Napley solicitors. Our presentations are interactive, challenging but fun. This year amongst others we were delighted to do a presentation for the Environment Agency, and a virtual event with Norfolk libraries amongst others.
We believe that Jack’s story, and black history generally, should not be shoe-horned into one month, and we are happy to continue with events (live attendance or virtual) throughout the year.
Racism in sport and football continues, as we saw earlier this year with players being booed for taking the knee, racist abuse of England’s black footballers after the Euros, and ongoing issues with abuse on-line.
We therefore like to contrast the historical example of Jack Leslie’s exclusion from the England team on the basis of the colour of his skin, with contemporary issues, using Jack’s story to engage with audiences. History is nothing if we cannot learn from it, and Black History Month is an opportunity to engage with issues and stories otherwise ignored.
2 We also attended an Argyle Legends event at Home Park, and were delighted to get the backing of one of Argyle’s play-off final winners: Paul Williams! Updated supporter list here https://jackleslie.co.uk/supporters/
The England and West Ham star remembers Jack Leslie as a lovely man who quietly got on with the job of looking after his boots.
Jack Leslie was picked to play for England back in 1925, then denied his England cap when the selection committee realised he was black. The Jack Leslie Campaign wants to right this past wrong and build a statue of Jack at the ground where he was a club legend, Home Park in Plymouth.
Jack Leslie was a prolific goal scorer who was born in East London and played for Plymouth Argyle from 1921-1934, scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances. He was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and was a popular figure at Argyle where he helped the team win a championship and promotion, toured South America and became club captain, probably the first black player to do so in the professional game. In his later years he returned to East London and after retiring from his trade as a boilermaker, he was offered a job by West Ham manager Ron Greenwood. He worked in the club’s “boot room” for fifteen years shining the leathers of World Cup winners like Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. And it’s where he met the young Sir Trevor Brooking.
Sir Trevor said, “I remember Jack very well. He was a lovely guy who would do anything for you. In those days we only had two pairs of boots for the whole season, one with long studs and one with rubber studs for hard grounds. Jack looked after all of us brilliantly in a quiet, unassuming manner. The incredible thing though was that none of us – me, Geoff Hurst or Bobby Moore included – knew he was a player! Jack never mentioned it; that was how humble he was. I was amazed when I read about the campaign and heard about Jack’s history in the game. I just wish he’d told us at the time, but that was Jack and I’m only too delighted to support the campaign for a statue to be erected at Home Park in his honour.”
Trevor Brooking played 647 games for The Irons, winning two FA Cups including in 1980 when he scored the only goal. He also won 47 England Caps. Playing alongside him from 1968 to 1976 was Clyde Best, one of the first black footballers of the modern age, who scored 58 goals in 221 outings in a West Ham shirt. Like Sir Trevor, he didn’t know Jack had been a professional player, but remembers him fondly.
Clyde said, “It tells you what he was like. He never boasted or shouted out. He just did what he had to do and he did a great job, not only for myself but all the other guys at West Ham. We would call him Uncle Jack and go and pick up our boots from him when we had away trips or brought him in after a home game and he would look after everything for us. At the time I played it was tough, but finding out what Jack had to go through, I’m sure it was a lot harder. He would have been by himself, just like I was by myself and it makes you a different individual when you have to face that. I’m just glad that people have joined together to get something that he richly deserves, a statue.”
The Jack Leslie Campaign is keen to see Jack recognised in East London as well as in Plymouth and urges West Ham fans to support the campaign. In nearby Essex, Barking FC has committed to raising a significant sum to create a memorial to Jack at the club where he began his career in non-league football as a teenager. Now we hope there could be recognition at West Ham United too.
Campaign Co-Founder Matt Tiller said, ‘We are delighted to see legends of the game support the statue and it’s even more amazing to hear those memories of Jack from the likes of Sir Trevor Brooking and Clyde Best. It just makes it even more meaningful; the fact that he never boasted about his man achievements or showed bitterness at the England rejection. A memorial to Jack at West Ham and Barking as well as Plymouth Argyle, of course, would tell the full story of his life in football.”
Jack’s family are West Ham fans and had a close connection with the club during the time he worked there.
Jack Leslie’s granddaughter Lyn Davies said, “I remember going to Trevor Brooking’s testimonial, he was a real hero of ours and Jack loved working with him too, they got on really well. I can’t believe he didn’t tell him about his football career, but that was granddad. He didn’t make a big thing of his achievements but he clearly made an impression on the people he worked with at West Ham. It’s wonderful to hear such lovely memories from legends like Sir Trevor and Clyde Best.’
Campaign Co-Founder, Greg Foxsmith said, “We hope that Sir Trevor’s support will raise awareness and gain support from West Ham FC and their fans, as well as other Premier League clubs, who should unite to support this campaign and kick out racism.”
Linda Gilroy’s Photo of Michael Foot has been auctioned for the Jack Leslie Campaign!
This photograph is of Michael Foot, former leader of the Labour Party, sitting for a portrait for renowned artist Robert Lenkiewicz. The photo was taken circa 2001 by Labour MP, Linda Gilroy who served as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton from 1997 to 2010.
It is one of only 2 prints of the photograph currently in existence, of which no more than a maximum of 20 copies will ever be reproduced.
The photograph, kindly given to the campaign by Linda Gilmore, was auctioned on eBay ( here) and raised over £250 for the Campaign!
The painting, unfinished at the time of the artist’s death, was acquired by the House of Commons Art Commission and displayed in Portcullis House London (detail here)
The original photograph itself was exhibited in 2001 as part of an exhibition of photographs taken by MPs, originally in Westminster & later touring the country.
The image captures Michael Foot sporting the green and black scarf of his beloved home-town team Plymouth Argyle. It shows him sitting in Robert Lenkiewicz’s atmospheric studio in the historic Barbican area of Plymouth, amongst the artist’s other works. It also captures the canvass that Lekiewicz was working on. A piece of art in it’s own right, it captures the artist’s process as well as the effervescent nature of the late great Michael Foot.
The rear of the frame is signed by Linda Gilroy, to whom the Campaign expresses it’s grateful thanks.
ALL PROCEEDS FROM THE AUCTION WENT TO THE JACK LESLIE STATUE CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN.
If you have something you wish to donate for the Campaign to raise funds, please get in touch via the website. Follow @JackLeslieCamp and @LeslieRaffle on twitter for details of future sales.
CURRENT RAFFLE – England top signed by Ian Wright-tickets £2- draw on 1st August- detail here
The Jack Leslie Campaign was launched to build a statue to celebrate Jack Leslie, picked to play for England back in 1925, but then denied his England cap when the selection committee realised he was black. Jack Leslie is best known for his time at Plymouth Argyle, but was born in Canning Town and started his footballing career at Barking FC.
He is a legendary figure for supporters of Barking FC and in the community. The Barking side with Jack Leslie won the Essex Senior cup, and West Ham Charity cup.
And now Barking FC have partnered the Campaign, and are aiming to raise £5000 towards the total target. In return, the club will receive a maquette (a smaller replica of the statue, cast in Bronze)
Barking FC Chairman Rob O’Brien said “100 years ago Jack Leslie played here at Barking as part of a diverse side, before going on to Plymouth Argyle. Our club in the East End of London has always celebrated diversity, both on the pitch and in our fan-base. Racism and prejudice have never been tolerated here, and we were upset to hear that Jack was denied his England place due to the colour of his skin”
Barking FC ﬁrst team manager Justin Gardiner, who has himself suﬀered racism in the past but never at Barking FC, said “we are proud of our legacy, and the players at the club from ﬁrst team to youth team are really diverse, we look at ability not colour”
Local MP Margaret Hodge is also backing the campaign, as reported here. The Crowdfunding target is to raise at least £100,000 to build a statue of Jack Leslie at Home Park, Plymouth. Now Barking FC, together with it’s friends and supporters, have pledged to work to help reach this goal. In return for this partnership, when reaching £3000 the club will receive a mention on the plinth of the full size statue, and then at £5000 a statuette as detailed above. To help them reach this target, you can contribute to the Crowdfunder, and mention Barking in the comments- each of those will count towards Barking’s target as well as the overall campaign.
Campaign Co-founder Greg Foxsmith said, “We have achieved a huge amount in such a short time, but that is all down to Jack Leslie’s story, and the positive way that the people of Barking and beyond have responded . We need everyone to keep telling that story and asking people and local companies and businesses to donate, and we are delighted that Barking FC is partnering with us in reaching our aims and objectives”
Last week, campaigners launched the fundraiser to build a statue outside Home Park to celebrate Jack Leslie who was picked to play for England back in 1925, but then denied his England cap when the selection committee realised he was black.
Co-founder, Matt Tiller said, “We’ve been staggered by the response as people in Plymouth and beyond react to the Jack Leslie story. More than 1200 people have already pledged donations big and small and we appreciate every single one, whatever the amount. We’ve been heartened by some of the incredible messages of support and memories of Jack The news that Plymouth City Council is pledging £20,000 too is a huge leap forward for our campaign which has captured the imagination not just locally, but nationally and globally too.“
Plymouth City Council’s Change Fund supports local projects through its partnership with Crowdfunder. Projects become eligible once a third of the target is reached and the money is only released if that target is met. The fund has pledged over £250,000 towards more than 60 projects, including the Nancy Astor statue.
Councillor Chris Penberthy, Plymouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Co-operative Development, said “I am really pleased that the Jack Leslie Campaign is working to remind the city and country of Jack Leslie’s successful professional career, and the discrimination he faced. I congratulate them on doing so well with their crowdfund appeal and am pleased to announce that as a result of this our City Change Fund has been able to match their existing fundraising with a £20,000 donation. I look forward to seeing them smash their target and being able to visit the statue of Jack Leslie once it is in place.“
The statue campaign has attracted cross-party support, from both Labour and Conservative groups on the Council, along with Independent Cllr Chaz Singh.
Since the launch last week, several high proﬁle football players and ex-players have expressed their support from the likes of Viv Anderson, England’s ﬁrst black senior team player, Gary Lineker and Carlton Cole to Plymouth Argyle Manager Ryan Lowe. Celebrities indelibly linked to the city, Dawn French and Sharron Davies, have also backed the statue appeal. The FA, too, has come on board as a sponsor pledging funds.
The Crowdfunding target is to raise at least £100,000 to build a statue of Jack Leslie outside Home Park. It will be a publicly accessible monument to acknowledge Jack’s achievements, tell the story of his success at Argyle and the England cap that never was. Plymouth Argyle, which named its new boardroom after Leslie last year, backs the plan.
Plymouth Argyle CEO, Andrew Parkinson, said “We are delighted that, through the Jack Leslie Campaign, people across the world are becoming more aware of the story of one of the club’s all-time legends. “We are extremely pleased to hear of Plymouth City Council’s funding support for the statue. In coming together to honour Jack, the city and people of Plymouth have evidenced their values and compassion, and we should be proud of that.”
The Crowdfunder runs for another five weeks.
Co-founder Greg Foxsmith said, “We have achieved a huge amount in such a short time, but that is all down to Jack Leslie’s story, and the positive way that the people of Plymouth and beyond have responded . We need everyone to keep telling that story and asking people and local companies and businesses to donate”
Shore Financial are one of the Plymouth companies that has donated to the fund. Jon Treharne said “we recognise that civic pride in the City’s achievements and great people past and present reﬂects well on us all and is part of what makes Plymouth great”
More on Jack Leslie:
Jack Leslie, a prolific goalscorer, was born in London and played for Plymouth Argyle from 1921-1934, scoring 137 goals in 401 appearances. Jack was the only professional black footballer playing in England for much of his career and was a popular figure at Argyle where he helped the team win a championship and promotion, toured South America and became club captain, probably the first black player to do so in the professional game. In his later years he worked in the “boot room” at West Ham, shining the leathers of World Cup winners.
At this extraordinary, and sometimes polarising, time in our history with such a focus on monuments, it is great to be campaigning to build something positive with an anti-racist message at its heart.
We not only want to build a statue as a memorial to Jack Leslie, but also use his story to celebrate diversity and combat racism. We’ve updated our home page with our Aims & Objectives to say just that.
We’ve also just published some FAQs in case you have any… and do get in touch if you have any other questions, suggestions or offers of help.
And, of course, we welcome donations and we’ve had a flurry in the last few days. We are still very mindful of the current situation and won’t be launching in earnest until football returns to normal. But to all those who have so far, thank you. It really is appreciated and will help us get off to a flyer when the Crowdfunder finally goes live.
TO DONATE CLICK HERE – We need to raise at least £100,000. Sounds daunting, but we know we can do it with your help.
Please do VISIT THE WEBSITE for updated information on the campaign, the team and see our growing list of key supporters. What else have we been up to?
Had very fruitful discussions with the team at Plymouth Argyle who are supportive and will be crucial in helping us fundraise.
Welcomed Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Association on to our committee. The FSA will help us get our message out there and may also provide additional funding to help us spread Jack’s story.
We are always keen to add to our list of high profile supporters so if you know of anyone who might be interested then put us in touch!
If you know any businesses who may want to help and get involved in some way then do put them in touch.
We are keen to expand our network. We need people with time and energy, particularly with skills in marketing, promotion, fundraising and social media campaigns. Do get in touch if you are interested.
If you are a Plymouth Argyle fan (as many of you are!) then you will be celebrating promotion! It’s been a very odd time in football and commiserations if it hasn’t worked out for your team. We’ve been enjoying Rob Bullen’s Argyle ‘Fat Lady Sings’ cartoon updates through the EFL decision making process and Rob has also drawn these brilliant pictures of Jack. Find him @robbybullen on Twitter.
So, as we continue to prepare the ground for our launch, we wanted to thank you for getting on board and following our progress. Do encourage others to sign up, donate if you can and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Spring 2019 and the thirtieth birthday of someone my wife worked with a bit. Joe’s a nice guy so we bobbed along to a trendy bar in the kind of hip area of London I’d rarely be seen to toast his significant life achievement. When we got there he was very excited to introduce me to his dad. Now, people don’t often get excited at paternal introductions, but this was different. When someone outside Britain’s Ocean City learns that two people are Plymouth Argyle fans, it seems to generate some kind of hysteria. They are desperate to light the touch paper and watch the sparks(y) fly.
Joe’s dad, Tony Fitz-Gerald is an ebullient character and he immediately launched into the story of Jack Leslie. He was passionate about sharing this piece of history and as soon as he began, I could tell why. Frankly, I was stunned and ashamed that I’d never heard of Jack and his achievements. And the more I listened, the more intrigued I became.
I grew up in the Tommy Tynan era, my interest beginning around the time of Plymouth’s 1984 FA Cup run when they reached the semi-final, a match I desperately wanted to attend but was denied by the cruel, uncaring parents I never forgave… until they bought me a season ticket the next year. My parents are not from Plymouth and not football fans and I think they feared I would be swept up in a tide of violence and be recruited by The Central Element (Plymouth’s hooligan crew who emerged in the mid-eighties). Thankfully, I lack a penchant for thuggery and racism.
These were exciting years at the club with a promotion following soon after the FA Cup glory and as a young fan the focus was on the here and now. I knew the odd bit of history — that England striker Paul Mariner had played for us early in his career and that Pele had visited Home Park with his club side Santos and got beat. Take that, you Brazilian show off. You’re no Mickey Evans. But, like most fans it seems, I didn’t delve further back into the archive and the club didn’t showcase it’s rich history.
That party chat over a beer with Tony continued and he told me about Jack’s England call up and we both wondered whether or not it was an apocryphal tale. Did Jack travel to London only to be turned back when they saw the colour of his skin? Of course, it may not have happened exactly like that but we do know that Jack Leslie was named in the England team but that his name then swiftly disappeared and he never won his cap. Jack himself recalled how the Argyle manager, Bob Jack, told him of his selection and how FA officials then came to have a look at him, ‘not at me football but at me face.’
Tony is a great character and has been full of enthusiasm since we met, sending me links and offering help which has been encouraging and invaluable. Soon after the party I wrote a song about the story – I am a very semi-professional songwriter whose work is mostly comedic (or at least it tries to be) but this serious song seems to sit well. I’ve played it live a few times and audiences are intrigued by the story. One of my biggest (only) fans is Greg Foxsmith, someone I’ve known since childhood and who now chairs PASALB (Plymouth Argyle Supporters Association London Branch). On hearing the story and the song (which will be released to support the campaign, of course), Greg immediately suggested a campaign to build a statue.
And that’s how it all began.
Since then we have talked to the club and been hugely encouraged by chairman, Simon Hallett, who is as keen to further recognise Jack Leslie’s achievements as we are. We’ve been busy talking to local politicians, key groups such as the PFA, Kick It Out and, most importantly, have now been in touch with Jack’s family. Yesterday I spoke to one of his granddaughters, Lyn, who has already given me a fascinating insight into a man who was, without a doubt, one of the finest players to grace Home Park and an inspiring, charismatic character to grow up with.
Argyle had planned to host Jack’s family in April and Greg and I were to attend. That is obviously on hold until later in the year. But in the meantime we are working hard to ensure that, when we do launch, our campaign to raise the funds needed for a statue of Jack Leslie is a success. I hope you will join us along the way. Please do let us know if you have any suggestions. We are working through a list of people we know we need to talk to, so if we haven’t got to you yet then do email us.
Thanks Tony. And, most importantly, thanks Jack. I’m sorry this took so long. The recognition you deserve should have happened during your lifetime.